6.5.08

The write way?

Two writers who have made it have come up with rather naïve statements.

Jhumpa Lahiri:

“I do not write to please reviewers. Writing to me is fundamentally a private act and a form of meditation in words. I think about the characters that I make up and their lives. Nobody is listening, but me. When the book comes out and people read it, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”


I would like to know whether these writers would be content to sit and meditate on words, create characters, listen to them and then go back to sleep. Why do they have agents? Why do they get publishers? Why do they do the rounds of book readings and marketing their product?

A writer who is on the bestseller list must not even feel the need to say she is not writing to please reviewers. No one does. Some may ‘buy’ reviewers (and please don’t tell me it does not happen). But the writing is done alone.

It would be foolish to assume that this is where it will end for a professional writer.

Even people who have just begun wish to be read or heard.

Arundhati Roy:

“I am not an activist...A writer hones his or her language, makes it clear and private and individual as possible. And then you look around and see what’s happening to millions of people. You find yourself in the heart of the crowd, saying things that millions of people are saying and it’s not private and individual any more.”


No, it is not. It was never meant to be.

If it is the label that is bothersome, then ‘writer’ too is a label. Junk it. Call yourself something else –a language shaper, a thought artist…

- - -

On another note…

Am reminded of that episode some years ago when an academician had said he liked my perspective.

“When you visit Bombay I shall take you to the places that honed my perspective,” I wrote back.

Several weeks later he did arrive and I took him around. Upon returning I got a note from him: “Thank you for the wonderful time. It seems that food has honed your perspective; you took me to all the restaurants in town!”

On another occasion at the lawn of an institute in Delhi, the professor leafed through some of my writings that he had with him.

“I don’t know. You are angry, you are sad, you are thoughtful, you are precocious…where do I place you?”

“Nowhere. I don’t have a speciality, a niche.”

And that is how it shall always be. The process of others reading is not “a tip of the iceberg” for me. I may confine myself to a vast expanse where it is difficult to find me, but I do know that some cold hearts do get thawed when they read me. Some need to unread, re-read…and weed out…but I am not writing for myself alone. I am writing with myself in it. The words and I soaking each other. Squish the sponge and you will get both of us.

6 comments:

  1. FV:
    I may confine myself to a vast expanse where it is difficult to find me, but I do know that some cold hearts do get thawed when they read me. Some need to unread, re-read…and weed out…but I am not writing for myself alone. I am writing with myself in it. The words and I soaking each other. Squish the sponge and you will get both of us.

    Every individual is unique and so is every writer. Why a particular writer connects to someone and repels others is a mystery to me.

    Why you connects to your readers (like me) is because of your honesty. No one comes so strongly and directly as you. You lay bare stuff in the open without judging it or being pretentious about it. Many may feel uncomfortable and squeamish with your approach but for me it is about connecting with myself in a very honest and forthright manner.

    That is the power you and your words have over readers, especially readers like me.

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  2. If anyone happens to read something I've read, I tear it up. Immediately. The thought of someone going over what I've written...brrr, makes me go cold. And if I happen to think "What would X think of this?" when I'm writing something, it never gets finished.

    Why is that?

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  3. Some need to unread, re-read…and weed out…but I am not writing for myself alone. I am writing with myself in it.

    I like this so much better than the BS I have been saying about how I write for myself alone, all this time. :)

    mask: perhaps you don't want to something you've written viewed through another person's prism. I've done exactly what you've done many times.

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  4. When Arundhati Roy asked to be referred to as a writer than an activist I understood what she meant, although I may not be able to explain it. I have a slight problem with explanations. Anyway, I'll give it a shot.

    See, I wrote poems and stuff, but when people call me 'poet' I tell them I am not a poet. It's something like that. Arundhati Roy may not started off her life planning to be an activist. She probably just wanted to be a writer and then somewhere down the line she saw some stuff that made her do some activist work. You know what I mean?

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  5. PS:

    "Every individual is unique and so is every writer. Why a particular writer connects to someone and repels others is a mystery to me."

    Because, as you said every individual is unique, we all see things in specific ways...you connect with me, MM does not, although i would say is s/he did not connect then there would not be the need to connect!

    "You lay bare stuff in the open without judging it or being pretentious about it. Many may feel uncomfortable and squeamish with your approach but for me it is about connecting with myself in a very honest and forthright manner."

    Thank you, but there ARE times I am judgmental. If one has strong opinions one is judging...

    But all in all...feels good on a not so good day:)

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  6. Mask:

    Since you tear it after someone has read it, there must be subconscious desire to be read. I am glad you think of what someone will think, even if it is an imaginary someone, because then you are already reaching out.

    If I may be so bold as to say that what you fear is not others but yourself. Your first audience is yourself, and you are a harsh critic. Be kind to yourself, and that kindness will percolate to others :)

    Ana:

    We ALSO write for ourselves…and tearing stuff, deleting is a part of the exercise.

    Re. your next comment, I have addressed the first part in the post itself. To some extent your second part is right, because the standards applied are different. But one may think one is a writer…nothing wrong with that.

    SM:

    If poetry becomes your profession and then you say, no, I am not a poet, I will ask you to go take a walk… “I have promises to keep”…

    The problem is had Roy written just that one book, would she still expect to be called a writer? Why? Some actors do one film and disappear and they are called ‘starlets’; if they did a good job, they are called enigmas.

    Sure, she did not plan to be an activist but she cannot wash her hands off it because her essays depended largely on what she learned on that job, as I already said.

    Come on, I see some birds, fine…but if I start looking at them carefully, studying their movement etc, I do become an ornithologist.

    You know what I mean?

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